Looking In, Looking Out

I know. I know. I quote Chesterton way too much. But this is one of my favorite Chesterton passages in his book Orthodoxy.

"No two ideals could be more opposite than a Christian saint in a Gothic cathedral and a Buddhist saint in a Chinese temple. The opposition exists at every point; but perhaps the shortest statement of it is that the Buddhist saint always has his eyes shut, while the Christian saint always has them very wide open. The Buddhist saint has a sleek and harmonious body, but his eyes are heavy and sealed with sleep. The mediƦval saint's body is wasted to its crazy bones, but his eyes are frightfully alive. There cannot be any real community of spirit between forces that produced symbols so different as that. Granted that both images are extravagances, are perversions of the pure creed, it must be a real divergence which could produce such opposite extravagances. The Buddhist is looking with a peculiar intentness inwards. The Christian is staring with a frantic intentness outwards. If we follow that clue steadily we shall find some interesting things…"

Here Chesterton sets forth one of the most fundamental differences between Christianity and the more navel-gazing religions of the Far East. Now Chesterton is not arguing that meditation is bad: the wild Christian saint surely meditates, as all monks do. However, the object or purpose of the meditation is different, and the result is predictably different as well.

One simple way of stating the difference is to say that a man becomes like his god. The goal of meditation in the Eastern world is to bring a sense of serenity and oneness to the meditator. It is to bring about an acceptance of all things, and a resignation to fate.

Christians don't believe in fate or the oneness of all things. They believe in God's sovereignty and the Messiah's kingship, which are very different from Eastern fate. The Buddhists accept all things because at the base there is only one thing, and the cause of all evil is separation. When all things become part of the one, then the world will be at peace. However, in Christianity separation is a good thing. God made all things distinct, and therefore we can wonder at His world and be amazed at the things He has created. Chesterton writes, "The oriental deity is like a giant who should have lost his leg or hand and be always seeking to find it; but the Christian power is like some giant who in a strange generosity should cut off his right hand, so that it might of its own accord shake hands with him."

This is also why Christian meditation brings about rejection. Christians are not to surrender to evil, but conquer it. The Christian life is a battle against any and all things that would stand against God. The life of a Buddhist is a battle against any and all things that refuse to claim to be God. And herein lies the difference between a pagoda and a basilica. One is a building for peace. One is a building for war.

Comments

Xindaeltal said…
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Xindaeltal said…
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Xindaeltal said…
Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

This is all my reply my dear brother.
Rick said…
I was not arguing against any particular nationality, and I hope it didn't come across that way. The apostle Paul, however, did not include worldviews in his list of things that no longer divide fallen humanity. I don't think you would deny that a Darwinian worldview is fundamentally incompatible with Christianity. It stands to reason that there are certain worldviews that are opposed at a foundational level to the Christian worldview, and that is what I was arguing.

There will naturally be similarities. Buddha washed his followers feet as well as Christ. However, this fact does not show that Christianity and Buddhism share the same axiomatic principles. I simply shows that people everywhere have feet. Everyone agrees that there is evil in the world. Most people believe it can be overcome. But as to the question of how evil is overcome...Eastern religion poses a fundamentally different answer than Christianity. Christianity is not only a religion, it is also a philosophy and a way of life. It is not Western in the sense of depending upon Roman or Greek thought for its basis. Neither is it Eastern.

Nevertheless, we must still realize that Christianity up to this point has flourished in the West, and so if we want to find a mature Christian philosophy of life, we must turn to where Christians historically have been. And we must do this while recognizing that if trends continue as they have been, in 50 years the majority of Christians in the world will be located in South America and South Africa.
Xindaeltal said…
I will be as succinct as I can be.

1) Darwinianism doesn't have to be diametrically opposed to Christianity. The person who claims to be a Theistic Evolutionist and a Christian simply has weak faith in a specific part of his understanding of how God made the world. He has not moved beyond perception and into true faith. Atheistic Darwinianism is in and of itself is opposed to Christianity. The atheist is still very much trapped in a worldly viewpoint.

2)I would contest that the similarities between Christianity and Buddhism are more than just superfical ones. If you read the teachings of Christ and Buddha you will find that they taught many of the same things. Buddha never claimed to be God. It was the misperception of Ancient Buddists that elevated him to godhood as it were.

3)The Christianity we deal with daily is decidedly Western. It has been tainted by a decidedly juridical approach to ethics promulagated by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Ancient City of Rome.

4) I will not disagree with this last part only in so far as we must evaluate what has happened where Christianity has been. What fruit have the Western strains of Christianity produced?

Unlike my former self, I reply soley for the joy and benefit of the one being responded. I do not enjoy discussions such as these anymore.
Rick said…
A Christian certainly can be an evolutionist without ceasing to be a faithful Christian. But this is not because Darwinism and Christianity are somewhat compatible. It is because said Christian does not understand the full logical implications of the Darwinian worldview, and are living with a happy inconsistency in their thinking.

On another subject: Despite all apparent similarities between the teachings of Buddha and of Messiah (love your neighbor, do unto others..., wash one another's feet, etc...) what was Buddha's solution to the problem of evil? Was it the same solution as that of the ancient Jews and of the Christians? i.e.- the resurrection and final judgment?

For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me. Job 19:25-27
Rick said…
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Xindaeltal said…
No it is not the same and it does not matter. The ideas of final judgement and resurrection were not relevant to that culture.

Buddhism is a highly pragmatic and "this world" religion. It came about as a means to eliminate personal suffering and by propagation the suffering of others.

Just so we are clear I am not a Buddhist. I have a high amount of respect for its teachings because 1) It pointed me back to the things that were lost by Western Christianity. 2) My "contact" with Buddhism has mostly been through my training as a martial artist. Ironically, my master is not a Buddhist, he is a Christian and his master is a Christian.
3) Points one and two have reinforced and driven me back to Christianity. The Holy Spirit is the One who ulimately makes virtue achievable. That achievement is not attained without protracted effort.
Xindaeltal said…
One of the things I have failed to mention was this. In the matter of prayer, Paul talks about the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.

In other places Paul talks about the tumlult without: persectutions, hardship, etc. Do you think that anyone can endure those things with a neurotic, mind without inner peace?

What about the concept of God's Sovereignty? The fact that all things work together for good? If they are in God's hand are they not necessarily good? Even the sinfulness of others plays right into God's hands. The evil magistrate is still a magistrate, he still is created in the image of God and from our standpoint can be redeemed. Evil is simply a corruption of the good things God created. Steel can be used to make buildings, build computers or make guns or swords. It is ultimately the use of those things that make them good or evil.

When a person has inner peace from a well-cultivated relationship with God there is nothing that can stop or shake that person in his efforts. He becomes like God using all things to his advantage and to accomplish his purposes.

We must look within and without.

Final point and then I will let this rest.

This is also why Christian meditation brings about rejection. Christians are not to surrender to evil, but conquer it. (This is no joke, but one must accept its existence in order to do battle with it. Conquering evil is simply restoring things to the state that God originally made them. Bring order from chaos.)

The Christian life is a battle against any and all things that would stand against God. (Again, I agree. Anything in creation that is out of balanced or out of place or seeking to set itself above creation is standing against God. This is one of the marks of sin.)

The life of a Buddhist is a battle against any and all things that refuse to claim to be God. (This is not true. Buddhists see creation from its original point of view. Creation is one giantic whole. Creation is interdependent upon the things within itself in order to survive, just like the human body. Buddha also doesn't deal with the concept of God in his teachings. He deals with how we are to live as human beings. The practicing Buddist can believe in God or not and still practice Buddhism.)

And herein lies the difference between a pagoda and a basilica.

One is a building for peace.
One is a building for war.

What is the aim of war? To eliminate a thing that brought about war.

There is no difference between the two at least from a practical point of view.